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October 1, 2012 / Rae Spencer

The Wax Myrtle and Yellow-rumped Warblers

Much of the yard’s fall and winter activity takes place in the wax myrtles. (I believe ours are southern wax myrtle. Other names include Southern bayberry or candleberry.) I’ve never bothered to count, so I don’t know how many individual plants make up the barrier between our fence and the sidewalk. Enough to create a unique habitat in the yard.

More tree than shrub, the wax myrtles are distinctly male and female. Only the females produce berries. (Technically, their fruit is considered a drupe.)

The berries aren’t in high demand. Few of the yard’s visitors bother with them, which leaves more than enough for the yellow-rumped warblers that come each fall and stay until spring.

According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website, yellow-rumped warblers are the only warbler species able to digest the berries.

The warblers stay through pear-blooming time, when they spend a few weeks feasting on nectar and soaking up sunshine. Then they disappear.

Today I saw fall’s first flock of warblers flitting through the wax myrtle. For me, their arrival is as certain a sign as the Harvest Moon.

2 Comments

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  1. Gillian / Oct 2 2012 2:14 PM

    Hi Rae,

    So that’s where our Yellow-rumped Warblers go! They breed here in Ottawa and further north, and there are still lots of them moving through our area right now. The Yellow-rumped Warbler is the most abundant warbler during fall migration here, so it gets tedious sorting through them to find something different (I saw a Northern Parula and a Palm Warbler yesterday while searching through all the yellow-rumps). I love the males in their spring finery; won’t see them again until April.

    • Rae Spencer / Oct 2 2012 3:34 PM

      I’m jealous! I’ve never seen them wearing anything except their pale winter feathers…

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